Friday, July 11, 2008

Without Warning: Epilepsy Drugs, Suicide and the FDA

Numbers are convenient stand-ins for flesh-and-blood humans, making cold clean symbols behind which to hide the carnage of wars, car crashes and, apparently, suicidal tendencies.

In January of this year, the FDA came forward with the news that after a review of some 199 studies, people taking any of 11 epilepsy drugs had around twice the rate of suicide as those taking placebos. The culprits included heavy-hitters like Lamictal and Lyrica. This, they said, warranted consideration of the dreaded black label warning.

Yesterday, the FDA said the suicide rate was morbid, but not enough for a death warrant on the drugs. See, slap a black label on those bottles and it's pretty much guaranteed those bottles will sit on pharmacy shelves collecting dust. Meanwhile the profits of ailing pharmaceutical companies will continue plunging southward into a sea of red ink.

I do wonder, out of a disdainful and morbid curiosity: Have any of these FDA decision-makers ever experienced a suicide in their family? Have any come home from work one day to find their teenaged son's brains splattered across their white walls after he cracked the gun safe combo in hopelessness and panic over girlfriend issues? Have any awakened to find their partner's side of the bed untouched all night, only to discover their limp and lifeless body hanging by rope from a rafter in the garage?

Had they experienced such horrors, I doubt they would find a doubled suicide rate an acceptable risk.
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